Kirbo Center dedicated

Published 2:30 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center was formerly dedicated Sunday.

“Welcome to the dedication ceremonies of the Charles H. Kirbo Center at Bainbridge College,” Bainbridge College President Dr. Tom Wilkerson said—and then paused as the approximately 150 to 200 persons in attendance heard him over the crisp sound system. “You know what, that has such a nice sound to it, I think we ought to repeat it: Welcome to dedication ceremonies of Charles H. Kirbo Center at Bainbridge College.”

The crowd then applauded, enthusiastically.

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Following Wilkerson, speaker after speaker acknowledged that Sunday was a good day for Bainbridge College, the community and the region to have such a center that promises much.

It was also an acknowledgment, but more of a hush, that the Kirbo Center was close to becoming a monolithic mess.

And, as some alluded to on Sunday, the mere fact that the $15 million center could even get to this point—of being finished with the restored number of seats in the beautiful 508-seat auditorium, and the 300-seat dining room—is a feat that a few very dedicated souls persevered to ensure its formal opening this weekend.

“I had my ‘Oh my God’ moments,” said University System Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr., who was one of a half dozen speakers Sunday, but added, “I’m ecstatic with what I see this afternoon.”

Davis said he’s not been to a formal building dedication within the Georgia university system since he’s taken the helm as chancellor, but Sunday’s ceremony has broken his track record.

“It’s a very special family. It’s a very special building,” Davis said.

The ground-breaking ceremonies of the Kirbo Center occurred in June 2003 with a projected cost of $4.5 million, of which $1.3 million was raised locally. The center had seen two different contractors, two architects and three college presidents—Dr. Cliff Brock, Interim President Dr. Sherman Day (who was scheduled to be there Sunday, but couldn’t because of his wife being ill) and presently, Dr. Wilkerson.

“There’s a phrase you will hear from me here fairly frequently this afternoon, and that would be the phrase, ‘without whom,’ because there are a lot of people in the audience and a number of people on the stage today, without whom there would be no Kirbo Regional Center. And we need to acknowledge those folks as we celebrate Charlie’s life and dedication of this building to his honor and memory,” Wilkerson said.

Three persons in particular were presented certificates for their tireless work and vision: Dr. Day, interim president from February to June 2005, who arrived with a mess but left with a determination to make the Kirbo Center work; Linda Daniels, University System’s Vice Chancellor for Facilities, who worked closely with the college in ensuring the center’s finish and it’s funding; and Leonard Dean, Bainbridge College Plant Operations Manager, who has seen the project from start to finish.

What others saidDuring the lengthy ceremony, eight persons, including Chancellor Davis and Dr. Wilkerson, spoke about the Kirbo Center, with the highlight being Bruce Kirbo’s remembrance of his older brother, the late Charles H. Kirbo, who the building is named in honor of.

Charles Kirbo’s wife, Margaret, was scheduled to say a few words, but she relinquished that to they son, Charles Kirbo Jr., who told the audience how his father loved Bainbridge and loved to return here from his law practice in Atlanta to “reboot.” The elder Kirbo was a close adviser to former President Jimmy Carter, and Kirbo is credited with establishing Bainbridge College and securing the land it would be built on.

The other speakers are as follows:

• Mayor Mark Harrell read a City of Bainbridge proclamation made in honor of Charles Kirbo and the center named in his honor;

• Doreen Poitevint, Regent for the 2nd Congressional District and Bainbridge resident, who said the center will be unique to this region;

• Dan Ponder, chairman of the BC Foundation, who said, “The Foundation is excited about what the Kirbo Center can bring to this community and this region;”

• Bill Weldon, president of Allstate Construction Inc., the second contractor for the building, said when he was reviewing the building during the bidding process didn’t know if his company wanted to take on the project. “It was a mess,” he said, but added later, “This has truly been a rewarding project.”

• The building’s second architect, Sam Andras of Andras, Allen and Starr from Columbus, Ga., who didn’t speak to the audience, but was recognized at the ceremony, was beaming with pride of the accomplishments of reviving the Kirbo Center.

As he described it, it was like taking a Rubik’s Cube with some of the puzzle pieces missing, then solving it in extraordinary fashion.